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New Kid on The Block

[whitespace] Lidia Montesinos and Felipe Cruz Facing the Future: Lidia Montesinos and Felipe Cruz volunteer throughout Beach Flats.

Student/volunteer Lidia Montesinos takes pride in her family--and her neighborhood

'PEOPLE AT SCHOOL think it's all drug dealers down here," Lidia Montesinos says. "I guess every big city has a Beach Flats--the other side of the tracks where no one wants to go. But I've lived almost all my life here."

Nineteen-year-old Montesinos attends Cabrillo College and works part-time at Beach Flats Community Center. She lives with her parents and four younger sisters in a house just off Third Street in the flats. The family has moved several times, but her father has begun mortgage payments on their new home.

On this warm Saturday morning, Montesinos is busy volunteering for the annual Spring Beach Flats Clean-Up. Removing a plastic glove to shake my hand, she pushes her hair out of her eyes and squints toward the sun.

"Times were harder before," she says. "Right after the earthquake, the house where we lived was declared unsafe, and the six of us moved to a studio near the park. We lived in Castroville for a while, but after a lot of sacrifices my father saved up enough to buy a house."

She explains that her father comes from the town of Guanajuato in Mexico and has been a farmer most of is life. "My father started working in the fields when he was 5," she says. "He now works as a farmer for Campbell's. He has made so many sacrifices. I really respect my father," Montesinos says, glancing down like any young person admitting to thinking her parents are cool.

Insisting she is a poor public speaker, Montesinos clearly explains her ideas about neighborhood redevelopment plans. "I've attended some meetings, but I can never stay for too long," she say. "I either have to study or go to school or work. And I don't really get anything out of them."

"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about redevelopment. Nobody here really knows what the redevelopment plans are about. I speak English and, I don't know, the plans are so confusing. It should be explained well in a simple language. A lot of people here don't understand English or the complicated Spanish translations that exist now. It not their fault, they just come from poor families and can't afford school."

Lidia Montesinos acknowledges problems but sees potential solutions. "We need to have more meetings in fluent Spanish," she says. "Even if there's a translator at an English meeting, it's not the same. People in the neighborhood need to be included in a way that makes them feel welcome."

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From the April 30-May 6, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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